How the tables have turned
When you roll back a few years, was there even a chance of saying that India won a Test match at home without the help of the spinners? You think of India, you think spin. As the clichéd and commonly used phrase goes, ‘spin it to win it’ was apt for India.
Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja hogged headlines for the most part of the home Tests. The spin duo spun a web around the opposition leading India to a win.
However, all that has changed. While the process started quite some time back, it is from the start of 2018 that the Indian fast bowlers have stamped their authority. The impact they’ve had has been massive. India don’t mind producing any kind of surface against any opposition. They feel they have the bowlers to knock over any team in the world.
Right from the start of the tour to South Africa, the Indian pace attack has been at its best. Tour after tour, series after series, match after match, the Indian pace attack has more or less out-bowled their counterparts. It was due to the batting fragility and inability to cash in on big moments that they lost Test series’ in South Africa and England.
But the Indian pace department kept getting better. They kept knocking over sides and also, have slowly instilled some sort of fear as well. The likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav have combined to form a potent attack. Each one may be a right-handed bowler but each one gives a different dimension to the attack.
Bumrah has played only overseas Test matches so far. He made his debut in South Africa and just when the home Test season started in September earlier this year, Bumrah got injured and the wait for the home debut continues. The Gujarat fast bowler is nearly relentless and will keep going at the batsmen. Shami has come leaps and bounds over the last couple of seasons. He has been running in like never before and producing some exhilarating spells. He has the ability to run through sides in no time.
The experienced Ishant Sharma seems to be a perfect foil and completes the trio when India play overseas. Also, the tall lanky pacer from Delhi has been bowling better than ever and has been moving the ball really well too. He’s become the leader of the attack and has been bowling beautifully. Umesh is one player who is constantly in and out the side. He usually plays when one of the three fast bowlers get injured or are rested. However, Umesh does play a large number of home games and has done really well. In fact, in the last couple of years, no other bowler has matched the Vidarbha pacer’s record at home. Even the spinners have lesser wickets than him.
Since the start of 2018, four Indian bowlers feature in the top 10 wicket-takers list. Out of those four, three of them are fast bowlers – Bumrah, Shami, Ishant. Shami has been on another level as far as red-ball cricket is concerned. He’s running in like never before and has been wreaking havoc as well. He is the third-highest wicket-taker this year (33 wickets). Since January 2018, the Bengal pacer has picked up 80 wickets in 20 games. He averages 22.72 with the ball and is striking once in a little more than seven overs.
Despite staying out for the most part, Umesh has been excellent at home. In nine games overall, the Vidarbha fast bowler has taken 43 wickets in the aforementioned period. He even has a strike-rate of 30.2. In fact, 38 of those have come at home (average of 13.86 and strike-rate of 24.3). All those stats are better than India’s two prime spinners as well. Meanwhile, Bumrah hasn’t played a Test match in India yet. But he’s featured in most of the overseas Tests and has taken 62 wickets from 12 games. He averages 19.24 while he has a strike-rate of 43.7. Bumrah has become India’s premier fast bowler in no time.
Echoing Ravi Shastri’s words, the Indian pace attack (or bowling unit) don’t seem to care about the pitch anymore. Be it any ground in the world, they are ready for the challenge.
In 2019, Shami, Umesh and Ishant, all of them have more than 20 wickets. Bumrah has played just three Test matches but has 14 wickets which have come at an average of 13.14. In a calendar year, no other team in the history of Test cricket have had a strike-rate better than this Indian pace attack’s 31.06 in 2019. Their average of 15.16 is the second-best ever as well.
India have had some great fast bowlers over the years. However, they’ve never had this kind of attack. These four have been India’s premier fast bowlers throughout the last two years. Bhuvneshwar Kumar has been around but he last played a Test match in January 2018 in South Africa.
Bumrah, Shami, Ishant and Umesh are the new age horsemen. They keep running in, irrespective of the opposition, irrespective of the conditions and keep knocking over teams. It is them who has made this team look like a world-beater. Yes, India didn’t win series in South Africa and England. Yes, they won a Test series in Australia against a depleted side which was without Steve Smith and David Warner. But if these fast bowlers continue in the same vein and the batting can do its bit, then there is little doubt that these pacers will lead India to series wins everywhere and maybe the World Test Championship (WTC) title as well.